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Baldelli could see bigs, barring strike

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 25, 2002


CHICAGO -- If there is a lengthy strike, there will be countless stories of the financial impact on franchises, players, team employees, stadium workers, charity groups and so on.

There also will be some baseball issues.

If there is a strike, the Rays won't get to call up outfielder Rocco Baldelli, the organization's next potential impact player. The 20-year-old started the season at Class A Bakersfield and has moved to Double-A Orlando and now Triple-A Durham, meeting the challenge at each level.

The Rays are planning to call him up for the final month to see how he fares and so he can be seen by Tampa Bay fans hungry for another heralded homegrown prospect.

Baldelli would play every day, joining All-Star Randy Winn and dazzling rookie Carl Crawford in an outfield with more speed and talent than the Rays have ever seen.

If there is a strike, Greg Vaughn won't get the chance to get back on the field, something he has been working toward diligently since recovering from the June 22 shoulder injury that knocked him from the lineup.

Vaughn, scheduled to be activated Sept. 1, probably wouldn't do much except pinch-hit and occasionally DH, but it would be better than what he has been doing recently: taking batting practice and watching.

"I'd love to play," Vaughn said. "But there's nothing I can do about it. We'll see what happens."

If there is a strike, Joe Kennedy won't get a chance at 10 victories or a winning record, significant accomplishments on a team 40 games under .500. There won't be enough games for the Rays to have three starters -- Tanyon Sturtze, Paul Wilson and Kennedy -- pitch 200 innings. Evaluations on Rule 5 rookies such as Felix Escalona, Jorge Sosa and Steve Kent would be cut short.

WELL, YES, IT'S TRUE: Manager Hal McRae has been reluctant to praise Crawford too much, not wanting to make the same mistake the Rays made with young players last season.

But Saturday he slipped, acknowledging what everyone else around the team has noticed: that Crawford is special.

"I'm impressed with everything about him, the way he has handled himself in the field, at the plate, on the bases," McRae said. "He's a big, strong guy that's fast and very athletic. At 21 and not having spent a lot of time in the minor leagues, I'm just impressed with the way he's handled himself, and his attitude."

McRae praised Crawford's defensive abilities, his "football mentality" in trying to catch every ball and his overall aggressiveness. He also said Crawford, who has been hitting second, has the potential to move to leadoff or third.

UPTON UPDATE: Chipola Junior College coach Jeff Johnson confirmed to Baseball America that B.J. Upton, the Rays' unsigned No. 1 draft pick, has contacted him about enrolling at the school in the Panhandle town of Marianna.

Classes at Chipola started Monday, but students can enroll until Sept. 2. If Upton attends class there, the Rays can't sign him until late May, and he has the option of entering the June 2003 draft.

Upton also is considering an offer from Florida State, where classes start Monday. If he goes to class at FSU, the Rays lose his rights.

CATCHING ON: Toby Hall has been swinging a much better bat recently, evidenced by his four three-hit games in the past week. Less obvious, he also has improved his defense, especially his pitch blocking.

"It's a pride thing and an attitude thing," Hall said. "I'm young and learning how to catch up here, feeling comfortable and just doing my job."

MISCELLANY: Randy Winn struck out looking three times, continuing an August slide. After posting a .359 average through June and July, he is hitting .235 (20-for-85) this month. ... Sturtze's complete game Friday was the Rays' team-record 11th and matched Florida for most in the majors. ... First-base coach Lee May's brother, Carlos, the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year with the White Sox, was a pregame clubhouse guest.


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  • Rays continue predictable inconsistency
  • Baldelli could see bigs, barring strike
  • Rays tales
  • Flaherty takes flak for good of the team

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  • DE Jones felled by sprained knee
  • Offensive line crumbles as drives fall apart
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